Thursday, March 26, 2009

What I Would Ask

I've had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling lately and speak to hundreds of pastors.
During this time several have asked my thought on countless issues.
Youth ministry.
Small groups.
Church growth.
Leadership development.

While I've done my best to reach down in my library of information and lean on past experience and wisdom that God has shown, I always ask them more questions than they ask me.

I personally believe that a majority of the issues in our ministries are a result of a simple issue.
Growing organizations naturally grow complex.

Small grows to big, therefore we need more staff, more structure, more programs, which in turn demand more time, more money, more energy, which leads to more building programs, needing more people and the process continues. All the while we're "doing" ministry but at the same time ministry is "doing" us in.

My wife's grandparents got married 64 years ago. One man, one woman. Today there are 7 children, 15 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and 12 great, great-grandchildren.
It all started with two.

Here are some things I ask and would ask any person in ministry to consider when wanting answers to "grow a church", or "make disciples of Christ" or "fix" a ministry need.

1. What do you want people to become?
Sounds simple, but you'd be amazed how off many are. Or how many people are by default just doing things. It reminds me of the scene in "The Dark Knight" when Harvey Dent is in the hospital and The Joker is sitting next to him and Harvey lunges after him only to get frustrated and ask, "young man, what's your plan" The Joker responds, "do I look like the kind of guy that has a plan? I just do things."

2. What steps are in place to achieve the first question?
This is where I loose 90% of the people I talk to. Because aren't our programs enough to help people become followers of Christ? If so, would the divorce rate be as high as it is in the church? Teen dropout rate? Would we be begging people to work in ministry, tithe, drop habits, love others, come faithfully? Programs are fine, but sadly too many of our church programs foster basic level Christianity steps. What if we looked at many of the programs we do in our churches and replaced them with a series of steps to help people on their journey of faith.

3. What is a "win" for your organization?
Again, for those of us in leadership we may have a pretty good idea, but how about the rest of the team? This is where I ask them to "clarify the win." Because the more general the win is, the less likely it's a "win." It's more like a "rally cry." Rally cries are short term achievable goals. Example: when someone says their "win" is to lead people to Christ, I then ask, " what next?" Because if that was a win, we'd only ever need two ministers in our churches. One to pray with people for salvation, the other to hit them over the head to send them to Heaven.
The more specific the better. This is why so many churches have the goal, "to make fully devoted followers of Christ" or "to lead people in a growing relationship with Jesus." Those type of wins are to the point, and are put in simple terms that define the goal.

4. What is your biggest priority, and what do you need to accomplish to achieve it?
I'll be honest here. Churches with tons of "ministries" scare me. Don't get me wrong, it's an honorable thing to be so aspiring. But I know something many of the leaders don't. Churches that have more ministries than staff are filled with people who are tired, on the verge of burn out and foster an atmosphere of mediocrity. Ouch! I'm sorry if I stepped on toes there.
But listen. Things naturally grow complex! And the more you do, it means the less quality every other thing becomes. Everything has a life cycle. So much energy is spent keeping things on life support. Find three of four ministries to excel in and say "no" to the rest. Because every time you add something to the plate without taking something off, it all starts to taste the same.

5. If you were to leave, or get fired, or whatever, what things would the next guy change that you won't because you feel like you can't.
Personal example time. At the last placed I served on staff, myself and the jr. high staff pastor worked for months preparing for a change we felt like we needed to do to grow. We spoke with the leadership, elders, all who were in charge and shared our game plan and reasons and we even begged. We heard tons of reasons why we could not or should not. None based out of biblical reasoning--if you know what I mean.
We are no longer there. Guess what the new guy did? Yep! The very thing we begged to do for months.
When God gives you a plan, do it. Sure, you have to have the right timing. But more importantly you have to decide who you want to keep. I'm not talking about plowing over people, I'm talking about doing what needs to be done to achieve the goal. I love the saying, "there's something wrong when you have to part the whiskers to give the baby a bottle." Leadership takes courage to do the things that need to be done. If you won't, the next guy will.

I'm amazed in just the 20 years that I've been involved in church and ministry how much society has changed and how little the church has as a whole has.
I think many of us would do well to get back to some simple practices of faith.
But here's the catch. Once you are able to answer these questions and honestly start putting them in practice----you'll work harder at keeping it simple than you would if you had forty ministries to oversee.
Why? Because things naturally grow complex, so you have to work hard to keep it simple and keep it focused.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sticky Church Quotes

For those of you who have read, "Simple Church" may I recommend another great book; "Sticky Church" by Larry Osborne. It's a great read with some key principles on ways to keep people connected to the church.
Let's face it, there are plenty of ways to get people to come to church. Keeping them there is another matter. This book shares some important thoughts on how to close the back door.

When I read a book, I highlight in it and make notes off to the side in it, so if I ever want to freshen up on it I can go back and hit the highlighted parts. I talked to a friend of mine, Jon Morris, today who gave me a great idea.
He mentioned that after he finishes a book and highlights in it, that he then types a list of all the highlighted parts and keeps them on file for future use.

So in the spirit of taking some good advice, here are just a few quotes from the book that I thought I'd share with you. Again, I highly recommend the book.

"We've often become so focused on reaching people that we've forgotten the importance of keeping people."

"A great spiritual start is no guarantee of a happy ending."

Commenting on the parable Jesus told concerning the sower...."If the soil in any portion of the farmers field produced a killed off before harvest outcome, he'd never plant there again. A crop that didn't last all the way to harvest was a financial disaster."

"If left alone, the back door never closes itself. We have to intentionally slam it shut."

"Imagine two churches that both run 250 in attendance and in ten years they both grew to 500.....Church "A" is the typical revolving door church in that it looses 7 people for every 10 it gains. Church "B" is a sticky church and looses 3 people for every 10 it gains. On the surface both churches grew to the 500 mark. But the revolving door church had to reach 834 new people to get there. The sticky church had to reach 357.....what's even more interesting is that Church "A" now has 584 formal attenders that are in the community who say, "I used to go to that church."

"The people who come through the front door of a church through word-of-mouth referrals have a fundamentally different experience than do those who come as the result of a marketing campaign."

"Basic laws of retention: Whatever you do to reach people, you have to continue to do to keep them."

"Many times in our special programs to reach the lost, we advertise weeks in advance; and don't realize how well we've trained our congregation to hold back their invitations until the next big event."

"As long as the front door remains bigger than the back door, any church will appear to be growing."

"Most of our discipleship programs are very linear. Unfortunately, most spiritual growth is not."

"Empowerment without a platform is like responsibility without authority."

"In the church, we don't want to hang out our dirty linen in public. A non-christian might hear and be turned off---or a gossip might hear and be turned on."

"It's a well known fact that young adults tend to mimic the behavior patterns of their parents once they start to have their own families. It's amazing to see how much like their parents most kids in my youth group eventually became. Once they hit adulthood, our influence waned and their parents' influence held sway. They parented like they were parented, did marriage like their parents, and even did adult Christianity like it was modeled by most of the adults around them."

To follow the above......."we decided not to have special small groups for youth and children, instead we asked them to join in the adults small group....our young adults dropout rate is a fraction of what it used to be in the past, it's because we've focused on giving our children and youth the powerful gift of a growing mom and dad."

"The most obvious sign of greater attentiveness was the marked increase in note taking."

Those are a few of my highlighted notes from just the first 5 chapters. Hopefully I've put enough down to wet your appetite to go out and get the book for yourself.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Just Some Things Worth Repeating

Below are some pretty good one-liners.
Some of them have been told to me recently.
Some I've carried with me for a long time.
Some I've read and they've caught my attention.

"The conversion of a soul is the miracle of a moment, the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime."---Alan Redpath

"All those years, when you worked on a Church staff, God paid you while He was developing your character. Now you've got so much character, He doesn't have to pay you anything."--- Donald Sims

"The most important things in life are not things.--- Dale Yerton

"A true friend stabs you in the chest."--- Oscar Wilde

"If your output is more than your income then your upkeep will be your downfall."--- Kemp Holden

"Anyone who must have superficial sounds to survive lacks depth."---Charles Swindoll

"Integrity is more than "not doing things." It's revealing to people things before you do them."--- Dale Yerton

"Talent will get you where you're going, character will keep you there."---Jentezen Franklin

"There is a difference between success and significance. You first must know which one you want to become."---Rick Clendenen

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results."---Original author unknown

There are tons more I could write down, but honestly I've been sort of disappointed that my last few blogs have been so long. I like to keep things short and to the point. I zone out on most blogs that are over 3 to 4 paragraphs, so needless to say my last few post haven't even kept my attention. HA!!

If you have some "words of wisdom" that you've heard or read, please feel free to leave them in a comment, I'd love to hear them.